I took the kids to the botanical gardens in the city center the other day. I wanted to see what the center of Bangalore looked like and I figured that the gardens would be a nice, relaxing introduction to the city. It was our first autorickshaw ride as well (prior to that, we had used a taxi or the relocation consultants’ 4×4), but rickshaws are a subject for another time. We arrived at the gardens, bought out tickets, proceeded inside and became tourist attractions in our own right.
I’m not quite sure what the trigger was, or if it was a combination of triggers. Firstly, white faces are rare in the city as far as I can tell; despite Bangalore’s international fame as an IT hub. Most of my German colleagues who have visited on business trips have naturally come without children and the few westerners that I have seen look to be the young professional types. Outside of the house hunting trips to a couple of gated communities, ours are the only western children I’ve seen. So fair skinned, blue eyed (Charlotte) and blonde (Sammy) children are few and far between here. Lastly, I can only presume that it is also unusual to a father to venture out alone with his children. That would be unremarkable in America or Europe, but I suspect it is different here.
We did not make it more than 100 meters into the gardens before the first family asked to take our pictures. The ones who did not ask to take our pictures were perhaps not as bold, but were equally curious, because it seemed that almost everyone was staring at us. This alarmed Charlotte to no end. We only made it as far as the entrance to the Japanese garden before she was so sick of the gardens that she wanted to go home right then and there. I tried to coax her along a bit more, but to no avail. I thought better of forcing her. I don’t want her to have a traumatic experience that causes her to reject India outright. So we went back to the gate to hitch a rickshaw ride back to Whitefield.
The Rickshaw driver wanted way too much for the trip, but I did not feel like having too much stress searching for a more reasonable driver, so we paid the overpriced fare. The driver did not know the way and had to stop and ask for directions a couple of times. He also got lost and it took us forever to get back. By the time he dropped us back off at the tech park, I had had my fill of India. We went inside to the mall to get our passport photos for the foreigner registration office (FRO) and we stopped at a café while inside. The kids had milk shakes, I had a cappuccino and we reconciled ourselves to the world. We regained some of the spring in our step for the two kilometer walk home. The spiritual healing powers of milkshakes and cappuccino are underrated.
During the rickshaw ride back, she asked me if I thought it was stupid that we came back early. I told her not to worry about it and that we’ll just have to slowly get used to being stared at. People here don’t mean to be rude and anyway, I don’t even know if staring is considered rude in India. They are all very curious. She has a friend back in Germany who was adopted from Columbia as a baby. Deana is a brown face in a sea of white faces. I think it will be good for Charlotte to understand the perspective of am exotic minority, but a little at a time.